West Salt Lake prison due for completion in 2020

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A prison project management team reviewed a construction timeline and site considerations for a new prison in west Salt Lake City and said it could be finished as early as July 2020.

In 2015, the Prison Relocation Commission narrowed down the destination for the new facility from four unhappy cities to one after much debate and protest. The legislature passed HCR 101, which placed the prison on the west side of Salt Lake City, on Aug. 19 and Gov. Gary Herbert signed it on Aug. 20.

 

File - A Tuesday, Feb. 19, 2013 file photo shows the Utah State Prison in Draper, Utah. The Utah Legislature has voted to build a new prison in west Salt Lake City  (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer, File)
File – A Tuesday, Feb. 19, 2013 file photo shows the Utah State Prison in Draper, Utah. The Utah Legislature has voted to build a new prison in west Salt Lake City (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer, File)

Within the prison site in west Salt Lake, the project management team is considering an east site, nearer the city, and a west site, nearer the Great Salt Lake. Jim Russell,  Facilities Construction and Management Division assistant director, brought legislators up to date on the pros and cons of each site during a recent hearing.

The west site’s evaluation has been completed largely without environmental bumps, according to Russell. The site would cost the state an extra $10 million because of a canal that would need moving, utility, roads and infrastructure. The project management team members expressed their excitement about the possibilities of economic growth in the area and of inmates helping to maintain the land.

“Not having any neighbors and public on two sides of this facility we see as a big plus,” Russell added.

The east site presents more snags. The site is situated near a landfill, which presents safety concerns about hazardous material. Russell and his team estimate that, though the prison would spark economic growth in the area, it would not match the potential development near the west site.

The management team must also be prepared for the possibility of finding Native American artifacts or human remains on the site. Wetland soil presents more of an issue on the east site than on the west site—the wetlands cross over onto where the facility would stand.

Because of recent weather conditions, the team has yet to access the site for further evaluation. Russell estimates that, due to snow, his team won’t complete an on-site evaluation of the east site until May 2016. “We’re looking at a total project, from start to finish, of 4.8 years,” Russell said.

Committee Chair and Rep. Brad Wilson, R-Kaysville called attention to the distracting and failing conditions of the current Draper prison, calling it “bad, and getting worse, I think, every day.”

“It would be nice to accelerate that process a little bit, if not a lot, so that the Department of Corrections could get on with their business,” Wilson said.

Kim Hood, executive director of the Department of Administrative Services, reassured the committee that the timeline is “not a worst case scenario, it’s not a best case scenario—it’s a reasonable case scenario.” In regards to rehabilitating inmates more efficiently, Hood added, “I think that’s what makes this so exciting is that it’s combining program reform with new design.”

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